ORANGBURG, S.C. — Four Runnin' Bulldogs recorded at least seven kills to lead a balanced attack, as Gardner-Webb posted 43 kills and a .312 hitting percentage in a straight-set sweep of South Carolina State on Tuesday evening.
"Solid team effort tonight, and a good focused effort to control our side of the net," said head coach Leo Sayles. "Our setters did a great job distributing the ball. Molly Johnston and Kaelyn Dyson found their mark offensively. We were very efficient offensively tonight, but definitely need to make some defensive adjustments to improve our overall effort. I am very pleased with a good road win tonight."
Gardner-Webb (4-2) won the match by scores of 25-19, 25-22 and 25-17, attacking at a .312 clip to go along with 40 digs, seven aces and five blocks, while holding South Carolina State (0-9) to 31 kills, 36 digs and a .207 hitting percentage.
Taylor Lillard (Victorville, Calif.) paced the Runnin' Bulldogs with nine kills, as Nicole Celarek (Bensenville, Ill.) added eight smashes. Molly Johnston (Lubbock, Texas) and Kaelyn Dyson (Holly Springs, N.C.) each hit at least .385 with seven kills apiece, while Hannah Driscoll (Lake Mary, Fla.) tallied six smashes and a match-high four blocks. Tinsley Fain (Boiling Springs, S.C.) and Amanda Sahm (Marion, Iowa) dished out 16 and 15 assists, respectively, as Dyson posted three blocks and hit an even .500.
Brianna Dafney led the way for South Carolina State with 15 kills and two service aces, as Marcella Chestnut and Ashante Finnie added six and five kills, respectively. Fabiola Plaza dished out a match-high 24 assists while KaShuyna Rooks posted a team-best four blocks.
Gardner-Webb took control midway through the first set, stringing together a 7-4 run to open a 17-12 lead on a smash from Kiera Moore (Spartanburg, S.C.). South Carolina State would answer with back-to-back points before a 6-2 spurt by the Runnin' Bulldogs put Gardner-Webb in the driver's seat en route to a 25-19 first-set victory.
The Bulldogs fought back in the second, answering Gardner-Webb's 15-9 set-opening run with a 9-4 spurt of their own to trim the margin to 19-18 on a tandem stuff by Rooks and Plaza. Gardner-Webb quickly countered with four of the next six points, pushing the lead to 23-20 and forcing a South Carolina State timeout following a pair of Bulldog miscues. The Runnin' Bulldogs would close out the set from there, taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the match on a smash from Lillard after SCSU fought off a pair of set points.
South Carolina State kept fighting in the third, scoring three of the frame's first four points to take an early 3-1 lead. Gardner-Webb quickly answered with a 14-7 outburst, taking the advantage on a Lillard smash before a Fain dump capped the run and gave the Runnin' Bulldogs a 15-10 margin.
After Gardner-Webb widened the gap to 20-12 with a Celarek smash, South Carolina State countered with a 4-1 spurt to trim the margin to 21-16 following a kill from Finnie. The Runnin' Bulldogs would counter with four of the next five points to quell the rally and close out the match in three sets with a 25-17 third-set win.
Gardner-Webb is back in action on Friday when the Runnin' Bulldogs take on Delaware State at 2:00 pm in Elon, North Carolina on the first day of Elon University's Phoenix Classic